The government is confident it is “on track” to meet its manifesto pledge of recruiting 20,000 new police officers, the home secretary has said.
The promise was made as part of the government’s 2019 manifesto – but critics have pointed out that it has already missed the deadline, which was set for March this year.
Home Office data due to be published later this morning will confirm whether the milestone has been met.
Asking about the issue, Sky News’ Kay Burley suggested that numbers were still below the levels of 2010, when the Conservative-led coalition came to power and introduced cuts to the police force.
Suella Braverman replied: “We’re confident that we’re on track to reach our manifesto pledge of 20,000 new police officers.
“If we achieve that goal, we will be in excess of 2010 numbers.
“We will be at record levels. We will have the highest number of police officers in history in England and Wales.
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“I think that’s a huge achievement by policing, a huge achievement by the Home Office actually, and actually a great achievement for the British people and public safety.”
She denied that the UK has an “inexperienced police force” due to the pace of recruitment, saying that the government has invested £3bn in the recruitment effort and “proper training” has been delivered.
“Even accounting for attrition and people leaving the force, we are confident we’ll still be in excess of any level we’ve seen before.”
Ms Braverman’s words come before she gives a speech later this morning at the Public Safety Foundation in which she will urge police to stop “pandering to politically correct preoccupations” and focus on “criminal justice, not social justice”.
Ms Braverman told Sky that “while our police officers are brave and excellent on the whole… I think there has been a tendency for the public to grow weary of some of the timewasting behaviour that police have been engaged in”.
“I don’t want police to be involved in debates on social media about gender,” she said.
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“I don’t want the police to be shying away from tackling really important issues like grooming gangs because of political correctness.”
The home secretary also cited police powers of stop and search – which have been criticised for disproportionately targeting black people – arguing it was “an effective tool to reduce violence and save lives”.
But she said: “In some instances, we’ve seen political correctness get in the way of common sense policing.”
This afternoon MPs will debate and vote on the government’s controversial Illegal Migration Bill, which would prevent anyone arriving in the UK illegally from claiming asylum. Instead, they would be detained and removed, either to Rwanda or another “safe country”.
Charities and human rights organisations have argued the bill is unworkable and could put the UK in breach of international law.
Earlier this week the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it was “seriously concerned” the bill could also expose people to “serious harm”.
Ms Braverman defended the bill this morning, telling Sky News: “People who are coming here illegally are breaking our laws. They are criminals and they don’t have a right to be here.”
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Asked about the situation in Sudan and what the government’s response would be if people started arriving on small boats, she said: “There is no good reason for anybody to get into a small boat to cross the Channel in search of a new life in the United Kingdom.”
Asked if refugees will be able to seek asylum in the UK, the home secretary said the correct way to request help is via the UN Refugee Agency.
Ms Braverman also defended the speed of the UK evacuation operation, which has been criticised for being slower than other countries.
The home secretary said “approximately 200-300 people” had been relocated from Sudan in the last few flights from the country.
Defending the speed of the evacuation, Ms Braverman said we have a “larger cohort of British nationals in Sudan compared to many other countries”.
“I’m not going to sit here in a studio in London and dictate what should be happening there on the ground,” she said.